At 4:40pm on 4 September 2017, I was driving home from work in rain, sleet and heavy fog. When the car in front of me slammed their brakes, I panicked.
And then my car skidded across black ice, narrowly missing a tree and a large ditch. When I stopped, the fog lifted and terrifying scene unfolded. I had just missed being involved in a fatal car accident by less than 50 metres. Before the emergency services arrived, I held the fingers of a woman as she passed away. I also sat inside an upturned car with another person to stop him exacerbating a serious injury.
The event deeply affected me and I wanted to ‘move on’ in a constructive way.
In the weeks and months that followed, I took to the roads of Victoria, keen to understand what makes some rural towns ‘go ahead’ and others lag, or even die’. I did this in part, to take ‘time off,’ but to pursue a long-held dream of writing a book.
The book is still in production, but in its place, Spark Rural, a community strengthening agency evolved. I’m pretty damn proud of it.
The accident taught me that we all deserve to live lives of purpose, fulfilment and meaning. As a tree changer, I have discovered the enormous opportunities and benefits of living and working in the country. Being connected to the land, and to nature, I am more relaxed, mindful and appreciative of life. I spend less, and value the simple, every day things that used to pass me by.
I believe that all Australians deserve to live in economic and social prosperity. While Melbourne and Sydney are becoming less liveable, what is the viable option? That is the question that drives me.
I see a new kind of living where people have the opportunity to live in smaller country towns and villages, that are connected to larger regional centres of social and economic activity and transport. Underpinned by technology, new forms of work are emerging, previously inaccessible to past generations. For this reason, I believe there has never been a better time to live in the country.
Indeed, this is blue sky thinking and there’s a long and uncharted road ahead. But this is life. I’d love to explore what’s possible, together.